Katsina Nupe: A Tale of Three Katsinas – by Ndagi Abdullahi


    [This article is dedicated to my elder brother Alhaji Suleman Ndanusa who is a great friend of the Katsina people. This write-up is also for those who keep on asking for the reason behind the jocular and banter-exchanging relationship between the Nupes and the Katsinawas]

    There were three different Katsinas in the history of Nigeria. Two of these were actually prehistoric, that is, not known to modern history.

    Today’s Katsina
    The city of Katsina is today the capital of Katsina State in Northern Nigeria. This is the only the Katsina on the map of Nigeria today. But in former times there were two or even more Katsinas on the map of Nigeria. These two other Katsinas were located in Northern KinNupe and Central KinNupe in prehistoric times. We discuss these two other prehistoric and now extinct Katsinas in the following paragraphs.

    The city of Katsina we see in Katsina State today is the last of the three Katsinas in the history and prehistory of Nigeria. The Katsina traditions and the Katsina Chronicle firmly related that today’s Katsina in Katsina State is not the first Katsina of history. The Katsina traditions are that today’s Katsina was founded by Kumayo who camped at Durbi ta Kusheyi eighteen miles to the south of today’s Katsina.

    This Kumayo originally came from an Old Katsina called Katsina Laka located some 150 miles further southwest of today’s Katsina.

    Katsina Laka
    The verity is that Katsina Laka, from which today’s Katsina originated, is located at Kwiambana which is in today’s Niger State. Yes, Katsina Laka or Old Katsina was located in Niger State in a place that was once upon a time part and parcel of KinNupe.

    The Katsina traditions positively recounted that Kumayo the founder of today’s Katsina belonged to the 12th dynasty of rulers of Old Katsina or Katsina Laka back here in KinNupe. This, of course, means that all the rulers of Old Katsina, including Kumayo himself, were Nupe.

    It is obvious from the Katsina traditions that Kumayo merely sojourned at Durbi ta Kusheyi for a while and afterwards went back to Katsina Laka his hometown back in KinNupe. This is evident from the narration of the same Katsina traditions that Sanau the last of the Kumayo dynasts was killed by Korau at Katsina Laka.

    And since both Sanau and Korau lived at Katsina Laka here in KinNupe, they both must have been Nupe people.

    In former times Kwiambana, where Katsina Laka was located in the Greater KinNupe of those days, was known as Kotorkoshi-Kogo. Kotorkoshi-Kogo is still populated by the Atsifawa people. Even though the Atsifawa people are today found in greater numbers at the nearby Sakaba province of Niger State, the Atsifawa people said they originated from the Kotorkoshi-Kogo area where Katsina Laka was located. In consequence Kotorkoshi-Kogo was also known to historians as Chafe-Kotorkoshi-Kogo, this Chafe being a variant of Tsafi or Tsifa or Atsifawa.

    Traditions have it that the Atsifawa and Nupe people are both descendants of Kisra. And Hassan Isah wrote that the Atsifawa and the Nupe people were one and the same people in the days of Katsina Laka at Kotorkoshi-Kogo.

    This Kotorkoshi-Kogo was also known as Kotonkoro or Kotonkora or, as we pronounce it today, Kontagora. Today’s Kontagora Emirate was created by the Nupe Prince Umaru Nagwamatse on the southern half of the Kotonkoro land given to him by the Nupe King Etsu Masaba.

    Etsu Masaba was able to gift a part of the Kotonkoro land to his cousin brother Umaru Nagwamatse in the late 1860s because in those days the whole of Kotonkoroland was under the sovereignty of Bida or the Nupe overlords.

    In even earlier times Kotonkoro was one and the same with the rest of KinNupe. In earlier times both today’s KinNupe and Kotonkoroland were populated by the same Gbara or Ibara Nupe people. The Kambari, who inhabit Kotonkoro today were originally known as the Kam-Bara, Ka-Ibara, or Ka-Gbara because they were originally a Gbara Nupe people.

    It was in the days when both Kotonkoro and KinNupe were one and the same Gbara Nupeland that Katsina Laka, or Old Katsina, was located at Kotorkoshi-Kogo in Kotonkoro or the Northern part of the Greater KinNupe of those days. Katsina Laka was therefore a Nupe kingdom through and through.

    Katsina Laka was also known as Kotonkoro or Katagara or Atagara. This Atagara was a Nupe kingdom to the core. The famous Legend of Queen Amina of Zaria definitely recited that Atagara was a Nupe kingdom located near Bida in Nupeland. And the Tsudi Legend also emphatically narrated that Tsudi the Nupe Founder was from Atagara.

    Katsina Laka or Old Katsina, otherwise known as Kotorkoshi-Kogo, Kotonkoro or Katagara or Atagara, was therefore entirely a Nupe kingdom located in the Greater KinNupe of former times.

    Leo Africanus, who visited KinNupe and Hausaland in 1513 interestingly enough visited both Katsina Laka in KinNupe Niger State and today’s Katsina in Katsina State. Leo Africanus, writing as an eye witness, wrote that in 1513 while Katsina Laka in KinNupe was a gigantic walled city, today’s Katsina in Katsina State was a small village with just a few thatched huts.

    Moreover, Leo Africanus downrightly wrote that Katsina Laka was located in the land of Guangara – this Guangara being the national name of KinNupe or Nupeland in former times. Guangara was also known as Wangara and Ambassador Solomon Adama Yisa wrote that both Guangara and Wangara were Nupe.

    Leo Africanus’ eye witness report is a strong corroboration of the Katsina Chronicle traditions that today’s Katsina originated from Katsina Laka. It is clear that some Nupe settlers must have left their Nupe kingdom of Katsina Laka here in Northern KinNupe and must have migrated some 150 miles northeast-wards to found a tiny village that they named after their homeland Katsina.

    The Katsina Chronicle also reported that in 1436, that is some 80 years before the visit of Leo Africanus, the king of Katsina Ali Murabus built a gigantic wall round the city of Katsina. The implication here is that the Katsina whose history we found in the Katsina Chronicle is Katsina Laka and not today’s Katsina.

    That now extinct Nupe walled city of Katsina Laka here in KinNupe was the one visited by the famous Sheikh Al Maghili in 1493. Sheikh Al Maghili did not visit today’s Katsina in Katsina State because in those days, 1493, today’s Katsina was a small village of just a few thatched huts.

    In point of fact, all the traditions, legends, stories and history we read about Katsina in the history books today are actually about the Nupe kingdom of Katsina Laka located here in KinNupe or Niger State and not about today’s Katsina in Katsina State. The Katsina repeatedly mentioned in the Kano Chronicle and Sultan Bello’s Infakul Maisuri was this Nupe kingdom of Katsina Laka located here on the northern reaches of the Greater KinNupe or Atagara of prehistoric times.

    Friederich Hornemann, who was the first White man to visit pre-Colonial Nigeria, reportedly sojourned at this Katsina Laka before he died at the nearby town of Bokani both here in KinNupe in 1801.

    S.J. Hogben and Sir H.R. Palmer both wrote that Katsina Laka here in KinNupe was the Katsina of history and not today’s Katsina in Katsina State. To tell the truth, these scholars and many others, including Lady Flora Shaw Lugard and the Temples, all wrote that Katsina Laka here in KinNupe continued to be the Katsina of history until it was suddenly destroyed by the Fulani Jihadists in 1806. Sultan Bello who personally led the attack on Katsina Laka wrote an account that clearly show that the Katsina they attacked and destroyed was Katsina Laka and not today’s Katsina in Katsina State.

    Sir H.R. Palmer wrote that Katsina Laka was the center of Islamic Jihad prior to the rise of the Sokoto Caliphate, the Sokoto Jihadists therefore had a strong motive for sacking and obliterating a rival Islamic centre Katsina Laka off the map of pre-Colonial Nigeria.

    It was when Katsina Laka fall that today’s Katsina in Katsina State rose to replace it as the sole bearer of the name Katsina. What happened was that when the Fulani Jihadists attacked and sacked Katsina Laka, a large population of the Katsina Laka Nupe people fled up north to today’s Katsina and subsequently built and transformed today’s Katsina from a small village into a city.

    That today’s Katsina in Katsina State was initially populated by Nupe people is best corroborated by the actuality that in 1816, six years after the fall of Katsina Laka and the flight of its population to today’s Katsina, the book Mithraides, written by Christoph Adelung and Severin Vater in Europe, unconditionally stated that the language spoken at Katsina was Nupe.

    Katsina Gungu or Original Katsina
    Interestingly, Katsina Laka was itself not the first Katsina in the prehistory of Nigeria. Just as today’s Katsina in Katsina State originated from Katsina Laka, Katsina Laka in turn originated from an even more ancient Original Katsina located on the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe.

    As late as 1635 we see the French cartographer Willem Janszoon Blaeu clearly locating Katsina on the banks of the River Niger right here in Central KinNupe. The inference here is that Original Katsina, from which Katsina Laka originated, was still extant here in KinNupe in the 17th century.


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